My name is Peter. I am an alumnus of this university [Hekima College, Nairobi]. I have been living with HIV for the last 17 years and I am still going strong. How did I come to AJAN? In 2007, I went to an Ignatian Encounter, in preparation for the World Social Forum, and I participated in a thematic discussion of HIV and AIDS. That is when I disclosed my status for the first time.
In 2009, I was down. When I say ‘down’, I was nearly dying, way back in my rural area. I was on my deathbed, suffering from TB and HIV, and you know the combination is quite deadly, I told God, ‘I believe you did not create me to end my life without achieving something for you. I sincerely ask you, urge you, implore you to raise me up from this deathbed. Show me what you need me to do for you. Meanwhile, give me the opportunity to get back to school. School will open my mind to see things much differently. Moreover, going back to school, Lord, will get me out of this stigmatising environment.’
Just like a child, my elderly mother used to come to take care of me. The morning that followed, she came, and saw that my eyes were brighter. She saw some hope and actually said, ‘today you’re looking bright.’ And, indeed, my prayer was answered. This was the beginning of the rising from my deathbed to where I am today.
I knew I needed to go back to school. Something urged me to call Fr Mombe [former Director of AJAN]. I explained to him what I was going through. At that time I weighed 37 kilos. Can you imagine how was I looking? Anyhow, I have a background in project management, and those skills were needed at AJAN.
So, my life began. I used to go to Mass. I got a scholarship to do my Masters in Nairobi, fully paid, courtesy of a Catholic programme. My prayer to go back to school was answered. But I didn’t know how to survive the incidental costs, how to eat. I was still on my TB drugs. With HIV and TB, you need to eat. I wasn’t ashamed to approach the Jesuit community and they embraced me like a brother.
I was changing from first line to second line treatment at the time. The first line had failed, because I was looking for a ‘cure’. I went to a prayer house. We were told, ‘when you go, don’t carry your drugs, you are going by faith.’ And you know what happens when you don’t take your drugs. So, first line failed and onto second line. I went to another prayer house. There was a ‘prophet’ and the idea was, ‘if you come to my house, don’t come with drugs.’ I abandoned my drugs for another three weeks, and they nearly failed. So now I am on third-line treatment.
When I became a statistic, I said, ‘what can I do for you, Lord?’ And I decided to put a book together, to write a book to fight stigma and discrimination because I really suffered them. People who had almost given up, who are living with HIV, have undergone metanoia and I know the book will touch more souls – it is a mission. Right now, I reach out, I give talks in universities, schools, and corporates.
AJAN picked me from the deathbed to help me become who I am now. I have achieved what I wanted: undetectable levels of viral load. Do you know what that means for someone living with HIV? It is so joyful.